After weeks trying to figure out a way to plow private roads in Watertown without violating state laws, the Town Council voted to ask the Legislature to grant an exception to the law.
Massachusetts General Law does not allow communities to spend public dollars to remove snow from private ways. Councilors, however, worried about the safety of residents living on those streets in the case of an emergency during a snow storm. There are 35 private roads in Watertown.
"The public safety of residents is paramount," said Councilor Cecilia Lenk, who is Chairwoman of the Public Works Committee.
In August, the Council voted to put a question on the ballot to allow plowing of the private ways. After that was passed, however, councilors worried that if the ballot measure was defeated there would be no other options, including asking the Legislature for a special act.
Tuesday night, the Council voted to ask the Legislature for a special act, also known as a Home Rule Amendment. This means the question will not go on the ballot, said Council President Mark Sideris.
The ordinance that the Council will request approval from the Legislature includes rules for private ways. Among them is a requirement for residents of these roads to move their vehicles during a snow storm so the street can be plowed, Lenk said. They will not be subject to the winter parking ban, however, since the town does not have the right to ticket or tow for parking offenses on private ways.
Town Attorney Mark Reich said the ordinance allows for the Public Works Department to contact and work with residents of private roads to come up with conditions that must be met for plowing to occur.